I was angry yesterday. I was angry that WMATA’s leaders don’t seem to get that city residents are dependent on Metro for more than their daily commute. I was angry that we have to fight this same fight year after year, against people who should be allies. I was angry that after a half century of experience with transit death spirals, we still don’t understand that cutting service has much bigger and worse implications than near-term cost savings.
And I’m still angry, but I want to mention one more thing, in a more moderate tone: Track maintenance.
One of the purported reasons for the proposal to end late night service is that it would increase the time Metro’s workers have to perform track maintenance without disruption or danger from passing trains. Obviously, track maintenance is important, and has to be carried out or the system will fail.
I think there’s room for compromise on this point. Metro’s policy of closing maintenance zones during three-day weekends is, I think, a good policy. It allows crews to complete important work faster, and it doesn’t disrupt the overall Metrorail system to an unacceptable extent.
That’s the model we should be looking at for late night closures. If Metro needs to close a portion of a line early sometimes to work on a specific issue, I’m cool with that. Do it. As long bus bridges are there to provide the same connections, occasional closures at spot locations is a compromise that I’m perfectly happy to make in exchange for a healthier transit system.
But don’t close the entire Metrorail system early all the time. That’s an unnecessary overkill that pushes Metro closer to customer death spiral.